Nashville Predators Reason for Optimism

Jan 31, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Central Division goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) of the Nashville Predators during warmups prior to the 2016 NHL All Star Game at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 31, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Central Division goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) of the Nashville Predators during warmups prior to the 2016 NHL All Star Game at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators had a great party during the All-Star break but it’s time to get back to work and things may be looking up.

In some ways, the break came at the wrong time as the Preds were on a 5-1-1 run in their last seven along with a four-game win streak. They seemed to be gelling with new center Ryan Johansen who was scoring at a point-a-game pace. On the other hand, the Predators had only played three home games in their last 14 and were admittedly ready for a break.

Now is the time to keep that streak going and get hot starting down the home stretch to the playoffs. They have a number of things going in their favor. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons that it may be a good time to be a Predators fan and why the rest of the season may be more successful.

Ryan Johansen

As we mentioned before, he has scored 3 goals and 10 points in his 10 games as a Predator.  He and James Neal seems to be building a chemistry with Neal scoring six points in his past seven.  That gives them 16 points in his first 10 games.  Coach Peter Laviolette is still looking for a permanent left wing on their line and that could improve scoring even more when it happens. It looks like Filip Forsberg will be back there tonight.

Current Standings

If the season ended this morning, the Predators would have the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference even though they are fifth in the Central Division.  The good news is that that they have played fewer games than everyone ahead of them except for Dallas.  The Blues have played 52 to the Preds 50. Colorado has played 51, and Chicago 53.  Those are points that can be made up in a hurry.

More from Predlines

The Schedule

The Predators play eight of the next 13 games in the friendly confines of the Bridgestone, including a four-game homestand to start with. This is a good time to build on the current four-game win streak.  They will play 18 of their last 32 games at home where they have a 13-7-3 record so far this season.

Special Teams

The Predators have one of the worst Penalty Kill units in the league, ranked 25th.  However, they killed 27 of their last 28 chances in the past 10 games.  That has moved them up and if it continues will certainly help them win games. Their Power Play is tied for 7th in the league and has looked much better with the addition of Johansen.  Good special teams could really help this team.

Injury Update

We just lost Eric Nystrom to a broken foot that tried to take on a Shea Weber slap shot.  He will be missed, mostly on that PK unit but help is on the way.  Gabby Bourque has been practicing with the team and is one of their best penalty killers.  He should return very soon. Colin Wilson should be back before long and looked like he was back to his best play right before the injury.  Both of these players could have a positive impact on the team.

Mattias Ekholm

When Seth Jones was dealt for Johansen, one of the worries is how it would affect the defensive corps. Mattias Ekholm has answered in a big way.  In those 10 games, Ekholm has an amazing eight points which leads all Preds defensemen.  He has already bested his career high numbers with six goals and 16 assists in only 50 games played.  His time on ice has increased to nearly 22 minutes a game and he’s looked comfortable alongside either Ryan Ellis or Petter Granberg.

Pekka Rinne

In his past three games, Pekka looked like the player that deserved to be an All-Star.  He won those three games with a 1.00 goals-against average and .963 save percentage.  He can sometimes be streaky and if he goes on a run like he did the first half of last season, the Predators will be hard to beat.

The Streak

According to Adam Vingan of the Tennessean, the Elias Sports Bureau reports that the Predators are just the third team to defeat the Jets, Oilers, Canucks and Flames consecutively on the road since the NHL returned to Winnipeg four seasons ago.  The big thing is not THAT they did it but how they did it.  It seemed like all season, they were losing games that they out-played the other team. This trip they won some ugly games that they may have been outplayed in but had nice comebacks and defensive stands to do whatever it took to win the games, especially in the third period.

Next: Nashville Had Quite a Party!

It won’t be easy keeping the streak alive as the Predators have lost all three games this season to the Blues.  Those three games were some of those that the Preds outplayed the opposition but lost the game.  The Blues come in with a 5-2-3 record in their past 10 and a win here would be huge for the Predators and a great way to start their run toward the playoffs. The Predators have struggled against the Central Division going 6-10-2 and it’s time to turn that around.